In statistics, latent variables (as opposed to observable variables), are variables that are not directly observed but are rather inferred (through a mathematical model) from other variables that are observed (directly measured). Mathematical models that aim to explain observed variables in terms of latent variables are called latent variable models. Latent variable models are used in many disciplines, including psychology, economics, machine learning/artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, natural language processing, and the social sciences.
Sometimes latent variables correspond to aspects of physical reality, which could in principle be measured, but may not be for practical reasons. In this situation, the term hidden variables is commonly used (reflecting the fact that the variables are "really there", but hidden). Other times, latent variables correspond to abstract concepts, like categories, behavioral or mental states, or data structures. The terms hypothetical variables or hypothetical constructs may be used in these situations.
One advantage of using latent variables is that it reduces the dimensionality of data. A large number of observable variables can be aggregated in a model to represent an underlying concept, making it easier to understand the data. In this sense, they serve a function similar to that of scientific theories. At the same time, latent variables link observable ("sub-symbolic") data in the real world to symbolic data in the modeled world.
Latent variables, as created by factor analytic methods, generally represent 'shared' variance, or the degree to which variables 'move' together. Variables that have no correlation cannot result in a latent construct based on the common factor model.
Read more about Latent Variable: Common Methods For Inferring Latent Variables
Famous quotes containing the words latent and/or variable:
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—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831)
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